The price of a new federal courthouse for downtown San Diego has ballooned to $310 million, making it the third-most expensive U.S. courthouse ever, says the San Diego Union-Tribune. Officials are seeking an additional $80 million from Congress, after all bids exceeded the existing $230 million construction budget this year. They had lowered the height to 16 stories from the 22 in the original design, unveiled in 2005. Fourteen courtrooms would be built instead of 18.
The cuts mean the courthouse would fill the San Diego judiciary’s need for only 10 years, instead of the 30 years that the original building was designed to address. “We’re trying to make it a lean building,” said Judge Irma Gonzalez, U.S. District Court chief judge. “I mean a building where it’s still very nice – it’s a wonderful place to do business, for the public to come to – but one that’s utilitarian and one that certainly is not wasteful.” Federal officials blame spiraling construction costs in Southern California for the increase. Only a $315 million courthouse that opened last year in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a $399 million federal complex planned for Los Angeles would come with higher price tags. Federal officials said the San Diego courthouse -is a priority because of the heavy local caseload. Filings were up 70 percent in August and 50 percent in September, compared with the same months last year. Gonzalez said spikes happen whenever Congress allocates more money for the U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies. Others credit interim U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt with filing more drug and immigration cases after her predecessor, Carol Lam, was fired amid complaints that she didn’t file enough.